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Al-Qaeda is getting more active in the Indian subcontinent and by 2017, it boasted several hundred members, with its cells mostly in Afghanistan and its operatives flourishing in Bangladesh, counter-terrorism experts have told the US lawmakers.
“By 2017, al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent boasted several hundred members and had cells in Afghanistan’s Helmand, Kandahar, Zabul, Paktika, Ghazni, and Nuristan Provinces. Al- Qaida’s presence in Afghanistan was almost certainly larger and more expansive than five or even ten years before,” said Seth G Jones, a strategic expert.
He was speaking during his Congressional testimony before the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counter terrorism and Intelligence on Thursday.
“Al-Qaida operatives in Bangladesh were particularly active, conducting a range of attacks. In addition, al-Qaida in the Indian subcontinent conducted a steady propaganda campaign from its media arm As-Sahab,” he said.
According to Katherine Zimmerman, research fellow, American Enterprise Institute, the Al-Qaida presence in the Indian subcontinent remains weak after Ayman al-Zawahiri announced the launch of a new affiliate in September 2014.
Al-Qaida divides the Pakistani theatre by ethnic group, he said. The Pashtun are part of its Khorasan theater, which includes Afghanistan and Iran, and the Punjab is under Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which works through the Indian Punjab and Bangladesh, Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman said Al-Qaida never fully lost its sanctuary in Pakistan and used this base to project forward into Afghanistan again as the US drew down militarily.
“By 2015, Al-Qaida was running large training camps inside Afghanistan. The US began revising its assessments of Al-Qaida’s strength in Afghanistan based on the discovery of these training camps,” he said.
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